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CO$T Letter to the Board of Supervisors

March 30, 2024

To: Marin County Board of Supervisors,

On Tuesday, April 2, you will be asked to fund a full-time Planner to administer Marin’s share of a $20 billion dollar Bay Area affordable housing bond measure that is widely expected to go before nine-county voters on the November 5, 2024 ballot. It is fiscally irresponsible to fund this new position when voters haven’t even had a chance to weigh in. Please reject this expenditure as it is premature to make this commitment.

The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) is seeking a new tax (which could be just the first of a series of such measures) to fund the issuance of general obligation bonds, totaling $20 BILLION plus interest. For each $10 billion in bonds approved by voters, this will add an initial amount of $12 per $100,000 assessed value, increasing 2% annually for 30 years for the nine-county Bay Area’s residential and commercial property owners — and will be passed on to renters.

Per the Affordable Housing Finance Pipeline publication developed by Enterprise and BAHFA, there is a need for $7.6B in soft debt to fulfill the pipeline in all nine counties. Marin has 13 projects in the pipeline and could possibly be funded by existing subsidies and soft debt, tax credits and hard debt. Marin has an affordable housing fund, State Permanent Local Housing allocation, gets repayment on existing debt and the Marin Community Foundation has played a significant role in funding affordable housing in the past.

When I read in the Marin IJ last November that the county was going to get a “windfall” of money for affordable housing, I was intrigued until I read where the money was coming from: taxpayers. A $20B general obligation bond that every person in the nine counties will pay for. That is not a “windfall.”

Why would you throw our chips in with BAHFA, regional bureaucracy that does not have a board directly elected by voters, does not return 100% of our taxes to Marin, and gives BAHFA discretion over the use of the remaining 20% of the proceeds? It doesn’t make sense. The county could raise its own funds for additional affordable housing, get 100% of the funds, and have direct local decision-making and accountability with a citizen’s oversight committee.

On top of that, what about the ongoing costs of operations for these affordable housing units? How much will Marin taxpayers be on the hook for subsidizing the rent and social services of low-income residents and those with mental health and substance issues. Without subsidies you can’t produce real affordable housing.

I built and managed affordable housing for 19 years. I have been an advocate for affordable housing for decades. But I can’t support another tax without addressing the underlying problem of why affordable housing costs are so expensive in the Bay Area. I am well versed in the funding side of affordable housing. Before you approve this expenditure plan, please consider these points.

Before we invest another $20 BILLION dollars of taxpayer-funded money for affordable housing, we need to look at why the cost per unit is so extreme in the Bay Area. According to the most recent tax credits awarded, there were projects funded that exceeded $1M/unit, including a project in SF for $1,179,000/unit and a senior project (typically one bedroom units) at $986,136/unit in Oakland.

Why does it cost so much to build affordable housing in the Bay Area? Much of the cost is due to regulations in California. For example, funding comes with strings attached. The developer must pay prevailing wages; counties and cities are charging full impact fees (many of which were waived in the past); annual compliance fees are charged by cities and counties; there’s the cost of mandatory repayment of borrowing from the government; and many more requirements not placed on developers of market rate housing.

A project I worked on in Vacaville was assessed both city and county impact fees, something I’ve never seen before. Senior projects used to be exempt from school taxes, but no longer.

I urge you to hold off on hiring new staff and to study the full impact this $20 BILLION dollar tax has on the citizens of Marin County.


Mary Stompe

Board member, Citizens of Sensible Taxpayers (COST)